Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts –

NordVPN delivers privacy through a number of features, an automatic kill switch and Double VPN, which as the name implies, doubles the VPN encryption for extra privacy. NordVPN has also stayed true to its promise not to keep IP addresses and VPN usage logs.

Our speed with NordVPN varied, but overall, NordVPN was reliably fast. Our speed test readings averaged 225 Mbps and 218 Mbps for downloads and uploads, which was about 90-percent of our 250 Mbps fiber-optic internet network. Thanks to its consistency, we consider NordVPN one of the fastest VPNs we tested. It never once let us down when it comes to bandwidth-heavy activities like streaming and downloading torrent.

>> See More: Download Torrent Privately with The Top VPNs

NordVPNs encryption is beyond reproach. It offers military-grade encryption, a.k.a. 256-bit AES, the highest encryption standard there is. There are additional safety and security measures in place as well. Whenever we connected to NordVPN, for example, it gave us access to a private DNS server, making sure we were not using our internet providers public DNS which could lead to IP address leakage.

With a NordVPN subscription, we ramped up our online privacy with its advanced features, 256-bit AES encryption, and top-notch VPN protocols, namely OpenVPN and NordLynx. We personally enjoyed using NordLynx on our Android, as we found that its about five-percent faster than OpenVPN. We also enjoyed lots of useful extras, like Threat Protection, which kept us out of malicious websites and kept ads out of our browsing experience. NordVPN, in our opinion, is more than just a VPN; its a multi-purpose tool for online privacy.

The VPN protocol is everything for a VPN, which is why its great that NordVPN offers two of the fastest, most reliable, and most secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN and WireGuard in the form of NordLynx. Heres a quick comparison, and for a more in-depth look, heres our comparison of the top VPN protocols.

NordVPN worked well with OpenVPN and NordLynx, but we found the latter more suitable for mobile devices because its lightweight, it adds less overhead data (useful for those in a data plan), and its faster. Our average Android download speed was 225 Mbps with NordLynx and 216 Mbps with OpenVPN. OpenVPn was still our top choice for privacy though, because it was more flexible and robust in terms of encryption.

Although not exactly a cheap VPN, we got more than our moneys worth from NordVPN thanks to its impressive feature-set. It protected us from malicious websites and trackers, gave us rare VPN features like Double VPN, and we found no fault in its performance. Wed happily pay the $1 per month extra cost of NordVPN compared to its competitors. Take a look at its pricing:

FYI: For a limited time, you can get three months of free service if you subscribe to the Standard, Plus, and Complete plan for either one year or two years. The cheapest subscription, Standard for two years, costs only $80.73 or about $2.99 per month.

So, which NordVPN plan is best for you? It depends on you. The Plus and Complete plans include extra digital security tools like a password manager and secure cloud backup, but even the cheapest Standard plan gives all the features we mentioned above.

NordVPN offers best-in-class digital security, making it the ideal option for those who are ultra-concerned about their privacy. That said, even novice and casual VPN users can benefit from NordVPNs impressive suite of extra features.

Surfsharks recent move to the Netherlands might raise some eyebrows since the country is a known member of the Nine Eyes, a government alliance with laws that could undermine the confidentiality of VPNs. However, we didnt bat an eye because Surfshark is known for its privacy practices. Just as we were wrapping up our Surfshark tests, Cure53 released a positive audit report on the privacy of the VPNs server infrastructure.

The speed we got from Surfshark was a mixed bag. We got excellent download speed readings that averaged 228 Mbps, but in some instances, the upload speed dropped to as low as 91 Mbps less than half of our internet speed. The average upload speed, however, was 167 Mbps.

Surfshark more than just kept our online traffic private; it also made sure to keep our VPN use a secret through Camouflage Mode. Enabled automatically in our Windows Surfshark app, this mode made our encrypted traffic seem like normal traffic, which is handy if youre in a country or network that restricts VPN usage. A colleague traveled to China recently and used Surfshark with no issues, despite it not being a government-approved VPN. We should mention that thanks to Camouflage Mode, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs that work in China.

>> Learn More: Must-Have VPNs for Traveling

Surfshark is a feature-rich VPN that offers beyond what most VPNs provide. In addition to the standard functionalities of VPNs, such as encryption and tunneling, Surfshark delivers a host of useful extras, such as the Camouflage Mode we previously discussed. Its also one of our favorite VPNs for Firestick, making it easy to stream content from all over the world.

On top of that, Surfshark can be your all-in-one digital security solution with its new Surfshark One offering, which combines malware protection, data leak detection, a secure search engine, and webcam protection for desktops. Head over to our page on Surfshark pricing to see all your payment options and see us take the antivirus software for a spin in our Surfshark One antivirus review.

VPNs encrypt and hide your browsing data, but those who have access to your network can tell if youre using a VPN based on how your data packets look. This could spell trouble if youre in a restrictive network (like office or school networks) or country (like China) that monitors the use of VPNs. But like we stated, a colleague was able to use Surfshark in China without any problem because Camouflage Mode made their traffic blend in. In VPN terms, this is also known as obfuscation.

Pro Tip: Another feature you might find useful is Alternative ID. Essentially, Surfshark creates an online alias (name, email address, etc.) to use for signing up for email newsletters or creating accounts on websites with shady or vague privacy policies. Alternative ID isnt included in the Surfshark VPN subscription, but is included in Surfshark One.

A nice little side-effect of using a VPN is gaining access to streaming content available outside your country. You can use it to unblock Hulu, for example, if youre outside the U.S., or access Disney+ shows that are not available in your country.

And its not just for Disneys streaming service although yes, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for Disney+. Surfshark works quite well with any streaming service, including Netflix, HBO Max, Spotify, and even YouTube. It was also one of the most reliable VPN for Prime Video. So the next time youre shopping for the best Hulu VPN or any streaming service, for that matter for your travels abroad, consider taking a look at Surfshark.

Surfsharks Camouflage Mode is a solid stealth-mode VPN feature for users worried about government restrictions. If you think you might get into trouble if you connect to a VPN in school, at the office, or countries that are not VPN-friendly, Surfshark is for you.

Based in the U.S., a member of the Five Eyes alliance, we had reservations about Private Internet Access, but it was immediately cleared after reading its privacy policy and seeing how they operate. We especially liked that users can opt out of providing usage metrics even though they are anonymous like device identifiers and connection events. Most VPNs, even our top-picks NordVPN and Surfshark, collect that data automatically.

Private Internet Access Windows speeds were fast during our tests, averaging 236 Mbps for downloads and 223 Mbps for uploads. Its one of the fastest VPNs for Windows. Its macOS and smartphone connections were also decent (200+ Mbps average), so overall, were happy with how PIAs speed turned out.

By default, Private Internet Access uses 256-bit AES encryption, but it was one of the few VPNs we tested that allow users to choose between 256-bit and 128-bit AES. The latter is less secure, but tends to be faster than 256-bit, which is why we preferred it for less privacy-demanding tasks like streaming Netflix or online gaming.

>> See More: Best Xbox VPNs

Private Internet Access speed on Windows was one of the reasons we considered it one of the best VPNs for Windows, but we also liked how easy it was to customize. The Windows app gave us endless options to personalize how our VPN connected, how it encrypted our data, and how it tunneled our traffic through the VPN. Its that flexibility that allowed us to optimize our VPN connections for different activities from simple browsing to work and even online gaming.

>> Related: The Top VPNs for Online Gaming

Not everything you do online requires Pentagon-level encryption, especially since tougher encryption can slow down your network. With Private Internet Access, we set the balance between speed and security. Fresh off the installation, we got maximum security from 256-bit AES encryption, but whenever we needed faster speeds, we switched to 128-bit AES, which is still secure but significantly speedier. We even found an option to turn off encryption altogether (proxy mode), which came in handy when we just wanted to change our IP address location to access anime from Netflix Japan.

Read More: Best Proxy Servers

A VPNs app can make or break the service. Private Internet Access is a great VPN with just as great an app thats easy to learn to use. Even our office intern, who apparently has never heard of VPNs before, learned to use it in no time. Because of that user-friendliness, Private Internet Access app has garnered high ratings from users.

One thing we really liked about the apps was their flexibility and customizability, which allowed us to fine-tune our connections and get the most out of our Private Internet Access subscription. For example, PIAs split tunneling feature is so advanced, it offers both conventional and inverse split tunneling (see our split tunneling guide for a detailed explanation).

With conventional split tunneling, we were able to exclude apps and websites from a VPN connection. One of the programs we use at work doesnt allow VPN traffic, so we set it to bypass PIAs tunneling on our computers. That way, we can continue to use it while keeping the rest of our device VPN-protected.

On the other hand, inverse split tunneling let us set apps that could connect to the internet only via a VPN connection. For this, we set apps like browsers to make sure were always on a secure line whenever were browsing.

>> Learn More: Are Private Browsers Really Private?

While PIA has pretty good mobile apps, the desktop apps offer the best functionalities. So this VPN is best for people who mostly use desktops for work and play.

UltraVPNs privacy policy discusses how it doesnt log data, but without third-party audits like we saw from Surfshark, theres no way to concretely prove or disprove it. However, when India passed a law requiring VPNs to collect user data, UltraVPN was among the VPNs that abandoned their India servers. It still offers India IP addresses last time we checked, but those are from virtual servers located in Singapore. Thats a good indication of the companys commitment to privacy.

>> More Options: The Best VPNs for India

UltraVPN uses a proprietary VPN protocol called Hydra from its sister company Hotspot Shield, highly-touted for its speed, but UltraVPNs speed wasnt exactly top-notch. Our download and upload speed dropped to about 160 Mbps about 40-percent less than our baseline network speed (250 Mbps). UltraVPN was still fast, but not as fast as NordVPN, thats for sure.

OpenVPN and WireGuard are the default protocols of many VPNs. We like those options because they are proven and tested, but UltraVPNs use of Hydra has a unique appeal. This protocol is exclusive to a few VPNs, so cyberattackers have less interest in exploiting it. It may not be as secure as OpenVPN, but in our tests, UltraVPN has proven enough that it encrypts traffic and hides IP addresses well (no IP address leaks whatsoever).

VPNs need not be complicated. While advanced and innovative features can be useful for some, especially those that need airtight privacy, a simple VPN that can do the job, is affordable, and is easy to use is the kind of perfect VPN for others. UltraVPN checked all those boxes. Thats why we think UltraVPN is the best day-to-day VPN.

While it lacked the advanced features and customizations we saw from Private Internet Access, UltraVPNs performance as a VPN was rock-solid. It gave us decent speeds, bug-free apps for desktops and smartphones, and a respectable number of VPN servers to choose from (1,000 servers in 125 locations). For its price $7.99 monthly or $1.99 per month if you sign up for two years its definitely a cost-effective solution for online privacy.

UltraVPN makes use of a VPN protocol called Hydra. Originally developed by Hotspot Shield, Hydra promises to deliver fast speeds, agile connections, and good security. Its actually one of the best VPN protocols after OpenVPN and WireGuard.

We especially liked UltraVPNs agility when using the Hydra protocol. It reconnected automatically and swiftly even when we changed Wi-Fi networks or switched from mobile data to Wi-Fi and vice versa on our phones. It left very little opportunity for attack. It also made day-to-day use a little bit easier as we didnt have to check our connection as often as we did with less agile protocols like OpenVPN.

FYI: Hydra proved great at protecting IP addresses. It passed our three sets of tests for DNS and WebRTC leaks, two common types of leaks that could happen to VPNs. So even though UltraVPN lacks the commonly offered protocols OpenVPN and WireGuard, Hydra is a great alternative.

>> See Also: What Can Someone Do With My IP Address?

UltraVPN can be quite affordable in terms of pricing. Even its monthly subscription, which is typically the priciest subscription plan of a VPN, costs only $7.99. Just for comparison, our top-pick NordVPN costs $12.99 with a monthly subscription.

If youre looking for a VPN for long-term use, UltraVPNs pricing gets even better. If you sign up for two years, youll pay only $47.76 per month. Thats an average of just $2 per month. See the pricing breakdown below.

The bottom line is, whether youre looking for a short-term or long-term VPN, UltraVPN is a practical choice.

UltraVPN is a good day-to-day VPN for average users, especially with its affordable pricing and easy to use apps. While it doesnt offer as many features as other options, UltraVPN is reliable and fast.

NortonVPN collects more information from users than other options. For example, while Private Internet Access let us opt out of providing aggregate usage data (bandwidth use, device ID, etc.), Norton logged mobile device data and aggregate bandwidth usage. Its still a no-logs VPN, though, as it did not log which websites we visited and IP addresses we used.

Norton Secure VPN ranked 12th in our VPN speed comparison, which is still decent considering we tested 35 VPNs in total. The download speed was impressive. It kept the speed loss to less than 12-percent. However, the upload speed (averaged 84 Mbps) and latency (averaged 120 ms) could be improved.

Norton Secure VPN had a particularly nifty feature where it automatically detected whenever we connected to a suspicious Wi-Fi network, such as password-less coffee shop Wi-Fi, and secured our connection with a VPN tunnel. While not rare, features like that one offer good digital security.

Norton is perhaps most famous for its Norton antivirus software and LifeLock (one of the best identity protection services; read more in our LifeLock review) but it also has a VPN, and its not half bad. Every time we connected to the macOS app, we got a different shared IP address, which is more preferable than static IP addresses because it made it difficult to trace us online. Not only did the IP address change everytime, but the IP addresses it provided us were shared with other users as well. Since online anonymity is what were after, we were satisfied with this VPN app.

Learn more: Static vs Dynamic IP Addresses

How much does the Norton Secure VPN cost, you ask?

Well, if you only sign up for a month on one device, its $4.99. However, for 10 devices for a year, the cost is only $59.99, which amounts to only about $0.50 a per device per month. If you need a VPN for the whole family, this plan is incredibly affordable, and one of the best VPN deals weve seen in a while.

Norton Secure VPN encrypted our web activity and hid our IP address using AES-256, the same encryption that the U.S. government and military use, so you know its secure.

Beyond that, in some locations, the VPN encrypted our web activity and changed our IP addresses multiple times, a process called multi-hop or double hop. That made it that much harder to track us online, from our personal emails to the items we bought on Etsy. No one needs to know about our obsession with vintage cookie jars, after all.

Norton Secure is best for those who are just starting to utilize cybersecurity tools to protect themselves online. Besides being easy to use, Norton Secure is from a brand most famous for its antivirus software.

You might be getting tired of VPNs that say they have a no-logs policy with no data to back it up, but Hotspot Shield actually has proof. In a transparency report, the company released that it received 56 subpoena and government requests in 2018, but that it hadnt been able to provide any information because, again, it doesnt log VPN usage and IP address information.

As you might remember, Hotspot Shield created the Hydra protocol used by UltraVPN. While its supposed fast speeds didnt materialize when we tested UltraVPN, we saw Hydras speed potential from Hotspot Shield. It was the fastest VPN we tested in terms of download speed, averaging 242 Mbps. Thats only four-percent less than our baseline internet speed.

Hydra is Hotspot Shields only VPN protocol. It doesnt use the tried-and-tested OpenVPN or even the newer protocol WireGuard that has been making waves in the VPN market recently. Although it has proven itself in speed, Hydra still has a lot to prove in terms of security. We would have liked to see more VPN protocol options from Hotspot Shield even NordVPN, which has NordLynx, still offers OpenVPN as an option.

Hydras speed played a huge part in why we picked Hotspot Shield. When it came to Netflix-watching parties, Hotspot Shield had us covered with fast speeds on our Mac and Windows computers. We also didnt experience huge delays or lags on Netflix when we used the app on our Android devices, which came in handy during commutes.

Of course, its fast speed was advantageous in more ways than just watching Netflix. Whether for downloading, streaming, or just general browsing, Hotspot Shield kept our data safe without sacrificing speed.

Money Saver: To get discounts, sign up for long term-lengths; typically, one or two-year subscriptions are cheaper than monthly plans.

These days, we see a lot of proprietary VPN protocols VPN protocols made and developed by a VPN company from the best VPN brands. Not many of them, however, can claim to be as fast as Hotspot Shields Hydra Catapult VPN protocol. Thanks to Hydra, the only VPN protocol offered by Hotspot Shield, we notched record-high download speeds during our recent VPN speed testing (more on that below).

Hydra is also plenty secure. Its actually built around OpenVPN, (which if you can remember is one of the most secure VPN protocols), but Hotspot Shield tweaked it a little to give it a boost in speed without compromising security.

We recently tested and compared the speeds of the top VPNs, and even though Hotspot Shield didnt take the top spot, it was right up there. We were most impressed by the download speed, as Hotspot Shield only made a negative 3.17-percent impact on our regular internet speed. That meant that with our roughly 250 Mbps connection, Hotspot Shield maintained an average download speed of over 240 Mbps.

>> Related: What Is ISP Throttling?

Hotspot Shield has strong streaming potential. Plus, Hotspot Shield is affordable, so its best for young people looking to expand their entertainment options without spending much.

Back in 2016, IPVanish faced backlash after providing the U.S. government with data that helped in the arrest of a child predator. Nobodys saying the company should have helped a criminal, but what IPVanish provided to law enforcement demonstrated conclusively that the company was making records of user activity. Thats a no-no for any VPN. Since then, IPVanish has taken a page of Surfsharks playbook. In addition to saying in its privacy policy that it collects no user datano IP addresses, no timestamps, and no browsing histories, IPVanishs has also hired independent firms to audit its service and verify that its complying with that policy.

IPVanish was the second fastest VPN weve tested overall, considering its impressive upload and download speeds as well as network latency. We measured only four- and five-percent decrease in download and upload speeds, respectively, and the VPN kept our network latency well below 80 ms. We tested IPVanish on a Windows laptop and subsequently named it one of the best Windows VPN because of its speed.

IPVanish security doesnt stand out in any particular way, but its admirable that it comes complete with all the features were looking for in a secure VPN. It has a kill switch, it offers several VPN protocol options, it uses 256-bit AES encryption, and it passed our DNS and WebRTC leak tests. All things considered, its a solid and secure VPN.

From Our Notes: IPVanish disconnected unexpectedly once during testing due to server maintenance, which showed us that its kill switch works. Because it stopped all internet connections on our device, the kill switch alerted us that we were no longer getting protection.

What sets IPVanish apart from other companies is its commitment to customer service. We cant tell you how much trouble we have sometimes getting companies to respond to our technical questions. Many VPNs dont offer phone support, and a fair number dont provide answers 24/7.

IPVanish has friendly customer service agents you can talk to any time, via both phone and online chat. Yet, the company doesnt charge any more than other VPNs. A one-year subscription, for example, is just $2.99 a month.

All VPNs can fail at any time without warning; thats just the reality. Thats also why we recommend looking for a VPN with a kill switch just like IPVanish. Its not that IPVanish is unreliable. It only ever got disconnected unexpectedly once, apparently due to server maintenance, but it showed us the kill switch in action. Without it, we would have kept browsing thinking IPVanish is protecting our data. But because it halted our devices network connection the moment IPVanish disconnected, the kill switch alerted us that we were no longer getting protection. We reconnected through a different server and got back online moments later.

All of the VPNs weve reviewed have privacy policies that outline what types of data they collect, why they collect those types of data, and how they use the data. Not all of them, though, have been audited like IPVanish.

The Leviathan Security Group, an independent security and privacy auditing firm, audited IPVanishs privacy and security practices just this year. Theyve found that IPVanishs claim that it doesnt log browsing and usage data is true. The firm also determined that IPVanish is non-invasive to its users privacy, making it a solid VPN for privacy-conscious users.

IPVanish has great mobile apps and its also affordable, so students looking to improve their digital security and privacy, not to mention access blocked sites on their schools network, could benefit from this VPN.

Privacy is ExpressVPNs bread-and-butter, and it made sure to use state-of-the-art technology to remain a top option. It has invested in making its VPN servers run on RAM, which we consider more private than traditional VPN servers that run on hard drives. If you remember, another VPN that offers RAM-only servers is Surfshark, which is number two on this list. That speaks to how high-quality ExpressVPNs network is.

ExpressVPN was middle-of-the-pack in terms of speed. It wasnt great, but it also wasnt bad. It was speedy enough to let us stream movies in 4K resolution. With ExpressVPN connected, our download speed averaged 230 Mbps while our upload speed averaged around 210 Mbps.

ExpressVPN uses a combination of 256-bit AES encryption and its speedy and lightway VPN protocol called Lightway to protect user traffic. It was a solid pairing. We found no IP address leaks from the Lightway protocol and its speed was well-within the average. We also liked how quickly Lightway established tunnels less than five seconds on average which meant we could connect to ExpressVPN anytime without hassle, even when were commuting via the subway.

ExpressVPN excels at doing the one thing every VPN should be able to execute well: Encryption. It uses 256-bit AES as the standard, and then improves on that by offering a swath of secure VPN protocols. ExpressVPN even came up with its own VPN protocol that is both well-encrypted and agile.

Another reason why we like ExpressVPN is how easy it was to install on our Firestick. With the VPN installed, we were able to stream different media libraries from all over the world.

Sure, the slightly higher cost of ExpressVPN may be a bit hard to swallow, but ExpressVPN is nothing if not one of the most secure VPNs around.

ExpressVPN is at the forefront of VPN technology. In addition to adopting existing VPN protocols, it developed a proprietary protocol that is both secure and fast, called Lightway. This VPN protocol runs on only 2,000 lines of code, much less than protocols like OpenVPN. And as a result, its lightweight and it provides a smooth user-experience.

Heres how it compares to OpenVPN:

There are VPNs that we consider leaky because their technology doesnt effectively block IP address and browsing data leakage. ExpressVPN is far from being that, though. Its one of the most secure VPNs on the market, capable of blocking DNS leaks and WebRTC leaks.

In fact, once youre connected to ExpressVPN, you can use its websites WebRTC leak detector to make sure it isnt leaking your IP address through your browsers WebRTC feature. Each time we tested ExpressVPN for those leaks, we didnt find any just the result we were hoping for.

ExpressVPN offers agile data protection, which is particularly ideal for frequent travelers. It has strong privacy features, and its lightweight proprietary VPN protocol also makes it a good travel companion, as it runs fast on most mobile devices and computers.

In our previous tests of CyberGhost, we found that it logged IP addresses in an anonymized format (the IP address is on record, but not tied to a specific user). This raised concerns from us, but fortunately, CyberGhost adjusted its privacy policy. Last we checked, they no longer store IP addresses; just the country of origin of connection requests. Thats an improvement.

Like many of the VPNs here, such as Norton Secure VPN and Ivacy, CyberGhost provided fast download speeds but significantly slower upload speeds. Our upload speed went down by 70-percent, which meant we only got about 75 Mbps from our 250 Mbps network. Fortunately, the download speed, which is usually what matters most to us because we like streaming, remained high with an average reading of 223 Mbps.

In terms of security, we liked CyberGhosts IP address masking in particular. Normally, when trying to access sites like Netflix and Disney+ that block VPNs, theyd occasionally detect that were using VPNs. For example, in our X-VPN review, while we were eventually able to stream Netflix, two of the 10 servers we tried were detected. With CyberGhost, we connected to 10 different servers in different locations, and all of them worked. That was, to some degree, proof that CyberGhost was hiding our IP address well.

CyberGhost has over 7,500 servers in 91 different countries, so although we only tested it out in the United States, wherever in the world you are, you probably wont have trouble connecting either.

The company is based in Romania, not a member of those international surveillance networks we keep mentioning; plus, Romania as a country has almost no data retention laws of its own, making CyberGhost a great pick for privacy.

FYI: CyberGhost offers split tunneling on Android devices only, so if youre using a Windows, Mac, or iOS device, youll only be able to access private and not public networks.

CyberGhost offers a wide array of subscriptions to choose from, and this makes the VPN very flexible. You can sign up for a month subscription to try things out, or go all-in on a one-, two-, or three-year subscription. The best part is, youll get a discount depending on the length of your plan.

The highest discount is over 80-percent off, which you can get by signing a three-year subscription. All in all, youll pay only $56.94 every three years, which breaks down to just over $2 per month.

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Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts -

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